Against a spirited Albion side, Taunton stole the west country bragging rights in the battle of Somerset and Devon this weekend. In a free-scoring game, the men from Veritas Park took an early lead that, barring a purple patch in the second half, never looked like losing.
The game kicked off on a cool but clear day and the home side were the first to hit their straps, opting against taking the points for a sequence of catch and drives against the Ocean Cities finest. Manfully, Albion put in a succession of strong defensive sets but it felt like, unless they could land a blow, there would be only one outcome. It duly came around the ten-minute mark when, after a series of pick and go’s was repelled, a brilliant offload from fly half Jack Walsh led to the first try of the game.
Albion responded with a long-range Connor Eastgate penalty on what was a rare foray into the home sides territory. Sadly, that was as good as it got for most of the first forty as Taunton cranked up the pressure, setting up camp in the Albion half. Having lost strong running Jeremy To’a to Covid quarantine on the morning of the game, the rejigged backline wasn’t really clicking and Albion struggled to exit their half.
Taunton scored two more tries to another long-range Eastgate effort and, barring a penalty for overzealous rucking on the Albion line may have had the bonus point wrapped up on 35 minutes. However, from the resultant penalty, Albion gained possession and position to launch a very impressive sequence of attacks that led to Shea Cornish scoring out wide to leave the halftime score 21-11.
The ease with which Albion managed to score would have been a boon for the coaching staff who certainly needed to enthuse their charges for the second half. Whatever was said during the break certainly had the desired effect as a different Albion emerged with Max Norey spearheading some telling forward drives.
Within a couple of minutes, Albion dotted down, reducing the deficit to three points. Sadly, it didn’t take long for Taunton to gain a penalty of their own, kick to the corner and duly drive over to secure the bonus point, restoring the 10 point lead.
Albion were playing much better rugby and started to gain control of the game with a strong set piece edging their opponents up front and leading to a try from hot stepping prop Dan Pullinger to once again to tighten up the scores. With a much more even half, the game took a ‘to and fro’ manner as Taunton made their way back into Albion’s half.
Albion were standing up well until the pivotal moment of the game took place. The ball was spun wide to the impressive Walsh who carried hard into Albion’s Eastgate. The tackle seemed complete but the Australian got up from the floor leaving a prostate Scotsman in his wake to score again and restore the ten point buffer.
After nigh on ten minutes of medical attention, the groggy Albion man exited the game and Albion had 15 minutes to rescue the game. With the points advantage and increasing fatigue, Taunton seemed happy to sit back and absorb what Albion had to throw at them as a grandstand finish looked on the cards.
With memories of the ‘Miracle of Chinnor’ fresh in their minds, Albion launched attack after attack but lacked the patience to build phases on the visibly tiring Taunton team. Knock on’s, forced passes or clumsy clearouts consistently let the home side off the hook as Albi became more and more frantic in their assaults.
A questionable call from the officials judging the impressive Shea Cornish to have held on was very similar to a key moment at the other end as the Taunton defence stood resolute. With the game heading deep into injury time, Albion had one last scrum in a very strong position to launch a final attack and chase a score that would garner two bonus points but, with a herculean effort, the home 8 shoved Albion off their own ball, won a penalty and closed out the game
Speaking after the game coach Damian Welch said “we were a bit disappointed with our first-half performance and we felt a little bit off the boil after a week off, but the effort and application in the second half was much better. Unfortunately, we made too many mistakes and allowed the game to get away from us with penalties. Whilst we worked hard, we need to look closely at our decisions and the impact they have on the result”
After what was indeed a somewhat blunt first half, Albion can have no complaints at the final score but can certainly feel hard done by that they didn’t get the fourth try after a very strong last stanza. It’s now a couple of weeks rest until the visit of fellow strugglers Bishops Stortford at the Brickfields on January 8th.
You can book your tickets here – BOOK YOUR TICKETS